You’re headed to the emergency room. Somebody close to you is in desperate straits and all you want is for somebody to see them fast and make them well. Chances are that if the patient is not acutely ill, you’re in for a long wait.

This occurs daily in almost all emergency rooms. You may not be able to avoid this unfortunate scenario, but there are some things you can do now to prepare yourself for an emergency room visit in the future.

First, plan ahead. Decide what hospital you would like to go to in case of emergency. In a trauma situation, you may not have a choice. But in all other situations, making this decision ahead of time will mean one less thing to worry about.

To help you decide, ask your own doctor what emergency room he or she prefers and why. Find out whether this is for your doctor’s convenience or whether it stems from a close, professional knowledge of and working relationship with the ER staff.

Another good source is people who have been to the ER recently and can tell you of their experiences.

If you are sick or injured, don’t be a hero and go to the emergency room alone. Call a close friend or family member to go with you or to meet you there.

It also is wise to ask someone to accompany you if the emergency involves a close family member. You may not be in a good frame of mind to make decisions or understand everything that is being told to you. You need someone who can be somewhat objective and help you through the crisis.

Once you’re inside the ER, chances are you’ll see nursing staff and doctors you’ve never seen before, and they will quickly order tests that may seem to take an eternity to complete. Don’t be afraid to ask what each

test is for and why it is taking so long. If you establish a good rapport with the ER staff, you may be able to nudge things along; however, expect lab work to be slow.

If your family doctor is not available for consultation, the ER doctor may recommend specialists. There is a call roster from which the ER physician may arbitrarily suggest a specialist. However, don’t hesitate to ask for a specialist you might know. This is when good homework will keep you prepared.

Dr. W. David Varner Jr. is a general surgeon and medical consultant for Aflac. – NU

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